Sharanjit Singh Dhillonn Materials

Collection Overview

Language(s): English (23), Uncategorized (83)
Number of Items: 106
Item Types: Photograph (38), Newspaper Clipping (38), Moving Image (3), Correspondence (2), Uncategorized (25)

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About the Collection

Collection Description
Family home movies.

Please note that this collection also includes Sharanjit Singh Dhillonn's personal scrapbook, but that is not reflected in this collection record. The collection record will be updated at a later date to include the scrapbook information.

Biographical History
Sharanjit Singh Dhillonn was born in 1932 into a Sikh family in Karnal, a district in the northern Indian state of Haryana. Sharanjit’s father was the chief of the villages of Shetara and Kurak (Kurak is most well known for its mention in the Muhabarata epic). Sharanjit’s father had several wives, and one of them warned Sharanjit’s mother that the other wives were plotting to kill her son because he was the chief’s legal heir. Sharanjit’s mother Dhanwant Kaur Dhillon, fled with her young son to her family’s village in the Chamba district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. As a teenager Sharanjit returned to live with his father and later went to university in New Delhi.

In 1955 Sharanjit came to United States to pursue a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering and a Masters Degree in Mathematics at the University of Oklahoma. Sharanjit was founder and president of the University’s first international club. Sharanjit paid for graduate school by spending summers working in Fresno picking peaches. He was able to obtain this job through the help of the Sikh community in northern California. During his early years in the United States Sharanjit changed the spelling of his last name from “Dhillon” to “Dhillonn” in a futile attempt to get Americans to pronounce his name correctly.

In 1958 Sharanjit met his future wife Dorothy, a fellow University of Oklahoma student two years his junior. Sharanjit and Dorothy were married in Norman, Oklahoma in 1959 and would go to have four children Bhagat , Ravi, Bibi, and Deepak. After their marriage Sharanjit’s mother Dhanwant moved in with her son and daughter-in-law. She lived with them until she returned to India in 1970 and died there at the age of 59. Dhanwant was known as “Manji” (the Punjabi word for “grandmother”) by her grandchildren and daughter-in-law, and although she never learned English, she was still very close with all of them. Dhanwant continued to cook traditional Indian meals while living in the United States, which she managed to do by taking trips to India and returning with suitcases full of spices.

Sharanjit kept his hair in a turban according to Sikh tradition until he decided to cut it in 1958. He cut his hair due to discrimination he faced in the United States that resulted in difficulty getting work and physical violence. In one instance during the 1950s, he was attacked without provocation while at a gas station in Oklahoma. The gas station owner refused to help him or call the police. Sharanjit’s wife Dorothy reports that he cried when he finally cut his hair.

In 1961 Sharanjit was hired as a chemical engineer at Borax, where he worked until his retirement in 2000. The company was located in the desert of southeastern California so Sharanjit moved with his family first to the nearby town of North Edwards, and later to the city of Lancaster. Sharanjit’s son Bhagat loved the freedom of living in the rural desert community of North Edwards where he could freely roam around in nature. When the Dhillonns moved to Lancaster they were one of only two Indian families that lived in the city. Sharanjit’s daughter Bibi reports that the family was considered exotic in the overwhelmingly white city of Lancaster.

Sharanjit was a great lover of film and photography, which is why these unique home movies and photographs exist today. Sharanjit’s films and his scrapbook were donated to SAADA by Sharanjit’s daughter Bibi Dhillonn. Bibi and her mother Dorothy Dhillonn are the source for the information in the descriptions of the films and the biographical note.

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Related Materials

Collection Themes: Family (2), Uncategorized (104)

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Administrative Information

Collection Record History: Jana Gowan digitized the original Sharanjit Singh Dhillonn home movies. Evan Tucker interviewed Bibi Dhillonn (Sharanjit Singh Dhillonn's daughter) for the information reflected in this collection record.

Access & Use: Items in this SAADA collection are open for research. Items may not be sold or redistributed, copied or distributed as a photograph, electronic file, or any other media without express written consent from the copyright holder and the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA). The user is responsible for all issues of copyright.

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